BPP: “Cool Tool, but How Do I Use It?”

At this year’s SAPPHIRE in Atlanta, Georgia, held from April 23 – 25, the total number of employees, partners, and customers streaming into the Georgia World Congress Center was approximately 15,000.
Not only is enterprise SOA a reality, customers are catching on quickly, as SAP CEO Henning Kagerman illustrated in his keynote presentation. Adoption of SAP ERP 6.0 increased from 225 installations in April 2006 to 2,574 in March 2007, and adoption of the SAP NetWeaver platform rose from 5,881 in April 2006 to 13,608 in March 2007.

According to SAP’s CEO, the future holds even more promise. Pulse checks taken by the Americas’ SAP User Group (ASUG) show, that 75 percent of the customers plan on upgrading to SAP ERP 6.0 by mid-2008, while 53 percent plan to adopt SAP NetWeaver as their strategic platform by 2010. “SAP NetWeaver is the only platform that brings together Microsoft .NET and Java and conforms to standards,” Kagermann said, referring to SAP NetWeaver’s compliance with Java Enterprise Edition 5.

Full speed into a new adventure

He accounted for two business trends driving the adoption of enterprise SOA: the accelerated pace of change, and companies’ heightened need to be innovative. According to Kagermann, a merger or acquisition occurs once every 20 seconds and a new product is launched every 3.5 seconds. “Whatever business you are in” Henning concluded, “it’s about speed.”
Léo Apotheker, deputy CEO and president of Customer Solutions & Operations at SAP, also pointed out the rapid adoption of enterprise SOA and SAP NetWeaver. “Five years ago, SAP embarked on a new adventure,” he said during the second SAPPHIRE general session. He was referring to SAP’s initial endeavours in developing a service-oriented architecture and the accompanying business process platform (BPP). Now, the BPP is on its way. According to Léo, now it’s up to SAP to show customers how they can squeeze the value out of it.

Apotheker gave a short recap of what the business process platform is: “A robust platform that combines base technology, middleware, and core applications into a single environment.” By delivering the BPP together with industry best practices, SAP takes the business suite to the next level – a level he called the “best of suite,” on top of which customers can develop to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Enterprise SOA today

Apotheker also asked the question very likely on audience members’ minds: “Cool tool, but how do I use it?” The answer: SAP will continue to provide solutions that customers can readily adopt, but with a new twist: with the BPP, customers can now tweak and tinker with the solutions, to adapt the solution to their exact needs. “Every company has its own differentiating capabilities,” he said. The BPP enables customers to invent on top of SAP solutions to maintain their differentiation.
Enterprise SOA is alive and kicking, not some lofty goal for a far-off year. The evidence wasn’t hard to find at SAPPHIRE. In a theater dedicated to enterprise SOA, customers and partners could see first hand how other customers are already implementing the technology. In one info session, customer Kimberley- Clark, a global player for health and hygiene products, showed how enterprise SOA and Duet fit into its current and future IT strategy. In another SOA session, entitled “Starting on the Road to Enterprise Service-Oriented Architecture,” representatives from HP and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline showed how an enterprise portal can become a company’s first step toward adopting enterprise service-oriented architecture. To complement that, Abdul Razack of SAP Labs U.S. described the tools (such as SAP NetWeaver Composite Environment, SAP Composite Application Framework, and SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer) used to develop enterprise services.

Catering to the Information Worker: Duet

In addition to all of its enterprise SOA offerings, in the future SAP will increasingly offer information workers applications that turn data into useful information. The poster child for this trend is Duet, the solution developed jointly by SAP and Microsoft.
In an info session on Duet customer success stories, Udo Waibel of SAP Labs Palo Alto described the current state of the information worker as “surviving, not thriving.” “Data is everywhere, but information is scarce,” he added. According to Waibel, the traditional functionality of Duet, which includes leave management, reporting, and analytics, will soon be supplemented by a new range of functions, including budgeting, purchasing, and even CRM features, which will be linked to a customer’s contacts in Microsoft Outlook.
Duet 1.5 is due out later this year, said Jeff Raikes, president, Microsoft Business Division. It will include new functionality, such as travel management. With Duet 2.0, SAP and Microsoft will provide supply chain management features, and tools for project management. Duet 3.0 is slated for release shortly after that of the next generation of SAP Business Suite applications and Microsoft Office software.

User Groups embody co-innovation

Like last year, SAPPHIRE was co-located with the annual Americas SAP User Group Conference. But unlike last year, this year’s ASUG meeting brought together a whole new mix of SAP user groups, including the Japanese SAP User Group (JSUG), the German-Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG), the SAP Australia User Group (SAUG), the Brazilian SAP User Group (ASUG Brazil), and the Dutch-Speaking Users (VNSG), to name just a few.
The strong turnout from SAP’s user groups was a testament to the interest in and importance of SAP’s co-innovation strategy, a strategy that calls on a vibrant ecosystem extending across industries to bring about mutual success. SAP CEO Henning Kagermann was on hand on April 22 to kick of this year’s ASUG conference and encouraged the SAP user groups – now totaling 33 worldwide – to embrace co-innovation, share best practices, and, as the voice of the customer, provide SAP with feedback on the challenges they face.

What customers want from SAPPHIRE

One in every two attendees at SAPPHIRE was a customer or potential customer. Each of these approximately 7,500 has a different motivation for attending the event. Lance Hoybye of SAP customer EFD, for example, says, “We are evaluating options to better utilize our existing SAP investment in SAP ERP Human Capital Management and other applications.” Nina Robertson of Tesla Motors says that the company recently went live with SAP: “I’m here to get more information about SAP offerings and to talk to the company’s automotive representatives.” Rebecca Scheiner of Intel came to learn what SAP is all about as her company heads into a reimplementation of several of its SAP applications. “We’re looking to get the latest on SAP’s platform and I’d like to understand the platform’s capabilities to see how far we want to take our reimplementation.”

Perry Manross